KIRBY: The challenge of Thanksgiving’s moveable feast

Thanksgiving dinners take 18 hours to prepare. They are consumed in 12 minutes. Half-times take 12 minutes. This is not coincidence.


— Erma Bombeck


So I’m standing at the fast-food counter waiting to place my order and the woman in front of me is displaying an all too common lack of modern manners by trying to both select a cheeseburger and continue a conversation on her cellphone, which has been glued to her ear since she came in.

I’m looking over her shoulder at the youngster behind the counter and both of us are tying to figure out who she is talking to and … if she’ll have fries with that.

But I give her a pass because it soon becomes apparent she’s trying to confirm Thanksgiving dinner plans – one of the most complicated co-ordinations this side of a NASA moon launch.

Thanksgiving Dinner attendance has been a challenge since the Pilgrims called it progress.

It is an annual effort fraught with peril, as pointed out in the old song that says the way to Grandmother’s House is “… over the river and through the woods.”

Those are obstacles and getting a family together is the biggest one. Not only have we all been there, but we’re there again

The reason for the challenge is the participants of the meal – family. They have too many moving parts, connections, loyalties, hurt feelings and rivalries.

But mostly moving parts.

Raise your drumstick if you have ever eaten TWO Thanksgiving Day meals. Now raise both hands (and unbuckle your belt) if you have ever eaten three.

My family started out with two folks, then added two boys and two girls. They added husbands and wives, children and spouses, grandchildren and spouses … with combination upon combination. I tried to add up the different places we could land on the fourth Thursday of November and quit at 45.

And I hadn’t begun to explore the opportunities presented by my wife’s side of the family, which is probably where I should have started. (The Atlanta Braves, I might point out, have only a dozen home-stands in a 162-game season.)

Thankfully most families go with an informal seniority system (See Grandmother’s House above), which while narrowing the focus, also ups the ante.

Forty years ago in the confusion of holiday planning it looked like my grandmother was going to be left out of anyone’s holiday meal. I called her and said I would drive to central Kentucky from my newspaper job in Washington, D.C. It would just be us, which would just be fine.

When my uncle realized what had happened, he bought last-minute airplane tickets to fly us both to his comfortable family farm in central Indiana.

It turned out to be a great Thanksgiving.

May yours turn out the same.


Reach Bill Kirby at



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